Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has hailed Jordan Henderson’s mentality after the midfielder bagged the Reds’ third, and final, goal against Southampton, saying the captain has had "the most difficult job in the last 500 years of football."
The former Sunderland man was introduced as a second-half substitute on Friday night and his late strike ensured Liverpool moved back to the top of the table with a 3-1 victory.
The goal was Henderson’s first since September 2017 and was undoubtedly a much-needed one for the Liverpool captain, who appears to have dropped down the pecking order at Anfield over the course of the campaign in a crowded midfield.
“That goal meant so much to him and to us,” said manager Jurgen Klopp at the end of the match.
“He's just a fantastic boy. He deserves all the praise but he doesn't get too much of it,” said Klopp.
“Hendo, from my point of view, is a brilliant player. He's our skipper, he's a fantastic character. If I had to write a book about Hendo, it would be 500 pages.”
The 28-year-old is one of the few players left from Liverpool’s botched title bid in 2014, which is often remembered for longtime captain and club talisman Steven Gerrard’s infamous slip against Chelsea.
Henderson replaced Gerrard as captain when he left the club a year later and has often had to shoulder the weight of expectation from fans.
“I'm very positive,” said Klopp. “The most difficult job in the last 500 years of football was to replace Steven Gerrard. In the mind of the people it was like ‘if it's not Stevie, then it's not good enough’.
"And he has dealt with that outstandingly well so he can be really proud. Now we have to think of the future and he is a very important part of our team.
“When I came in and thought first about the team, Hendo was a box-to-box player. We made him a No.6 and that's good.
“I think it's helped him a lot to play in different positions. I told him already that that doesn't mean he will never play as a six again. He thinks it makes sense, and that's absolutely true. We play different systems. Milly [James Milner] and Hendo were both really pumped up. It helped us a lot.”
Friday’s win ensured Liverpool moved two points clear at the top of the table with just five games left, although Manchester City do have a match in hand on their title-rivals.
Next up for the Merseysiders is the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie at Porto, which takes place at Anfield on Tuesday.